Sensation (psychology)

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In psychology, sensation and perception are stages of processing of the senses in human and animal systems, such as vision, auditory, vestibular, and pain senses. Included in this topic is the study of illusions such as motion aftereffect, color constancy, auditory illusions, and depth perception.

Sensation is the function of the low-level biochemical and neurological events that begin with the impinging of a stimulus upon the receptor cells of a sensory organ. It is the detection of the elementary properties of a stimulus.[1]

Perception is the mental process or state that is reflected in statements like "I see a uniformly blue wall", representing awareness or understanding of the real-world cause of the sensory input. The goal of sensation is detection, the goal of perception is to create useful information of the surroundings.[2]

In other words, sensations are the first stages in the functioning of senses to represent stimuli from the environment, and perception is a higher brain function about interpreting events and objects in the world.[3] Stimuli from the environment are transformed into neural signals, which are then interpreted by the brain, through a process called transduction. Transduction is the physical process of converting stimuli into biological signals that may further influence the internal state of the organism, including the possible production of conscious awareness or perception.

Gestalt theorists believe that with the two together a person experiences a personal reality that is other than the sum of the parts.

Loss of sensation[edit]

Main article: Sensory loss

Many types of sense loss occur due to a dysfunctional sensation process, whether it be ineffective receptors, nerve damage, or cerebral impairment. Unlike agnosia, these impairments are due to damages prior to the perception process. Conditions do exist where the patient experiences sensory loss, but experimental evidence shows that the effect is perception based.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carlson, Neil R. et al. Psychology: the Science of Behaviour. 4th Canadian Edition. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 2010.
  2. ^ Gazzaninga, M., Heatherton, T., Halpern, D. & Heine, S. (2010). Psychological Science ( 3 ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. p. 188
  3. ^ David G. Myers (2004). Exploring Psychology (6th ed.). Macmillan. pp. 140–141. ISBN 978-0-7167-8622-1. 

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